Strokes don't happen to everyone.
In my mind, they happen to older people with a litany of health problems.
On Jan. 17, at about 2:30 p.m., I became a statistic.
I'm 37 years old and, for the most part, I thought healthy. The stroke hit just before I was headed to work. I'll spare the details of how it struck, but will say it's really sobering to go from healthy to death's door in about 20 minutes.
I had a brainstem stroke, which I learned doing some research in my free time (you have a lot of that in a hospital) is one of the most dangerous a person can have. It can shut down your windpipe and suffocate you, along with causing other potentially fatal conditions. The older you are, the more likely they are to be fatal, I learned. Luckily, that didn't happen to me, but it did cause me to have vertigo and dysphagia, which paralyzed my throat muscles. I'm still learning to swallow and, as I type this, attempting not to strangle myself on the Powerade I'm drinking.
Oh, the basic life skills you can take for granted.
I also walk with a nifty cane my wife's stepfather made. I'm proud to get to use it. Thanks, Larry.
Hospitals can be scary places, and I'm not a fan, but for the two and a half weeks I was a patient at Self Regional Medical Center, I felt less like a patient and more like a sick relative the staff wanted to help get better.
Before I go any further, I want to thank the staff members (whose names I remember) for their hard work and dedication to getting me back on my feet. Jill, Holly, Dr. Gallman, Mickey, Ashleigh, Glenn, my ambulance drivers and especially Jessica, my speech therapist, who worked long and hard to make sure I could swallow enough to go home. To all of you and the many others who put up with my bad attempts at humor and complaints about getting all the blood sucked out of my system, I appreciate you more than you will ever realize. I know I left many of you out, but there were a lot of you who entered and exited my room daily. Every one of you are important to me. Thank you from the bottom of my much-weakened heart. I owe you all my life.
Speaking of my life, this stroke forced major lifestyle changes for me.
For one, I'm now a diabetic. No more sodas, candy bars, whole bags of cookies or any of that stuff. I also get the enjoyment of stabbing myself with a needle at least three times a day. I don't like needles. But, I now empathize with the millions of others who have to endure that daily ritual to stay healthy.
It's not so bad, honestly, but I'm still having to remember to test my blood sugar before meals.
Which brings me to my next, and most important, point. Pay attention to your health. Seriously.
As I said earlier, a stroke or a heart attack or other dangerous health issue can broadside you and change your entire future quickly and unexpectedly. Don't take life for granted. I almost died during the course of a 30-minute time frame.